As America offered its official farewells in a memorial service September 12 to Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, the second man on the moon, Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin, was no doubt recalling that first lunar mission in mid-July 1969. And among the recollections of the event that have been resurrected by the media over the past few days was Aldrin's decision to mark the historic occasion in perhaps the most appropriate way possible: by taking a few moments to worship God through communion, partaking of the emblems of Christ's body and blood.
NASA allowed an astronaut to take a small bag of personal items with him on such flights, and amongst his own effects Aldrin, an elder in his Presbyterian church back home in Texas, packed a communion wafer and a small vial of communion wine consecrated by his pastor. A few minutes after he and Armstrong landed on the lunar surface, Aldrin, pilot of the Lunar Module, radioed back to Mission Control in Houston, with this personal message: “I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.”
As NASA officials, nervous about the backlash over religious expression by the astronaut, blacked out the radio communication with the rest of the world, Aldrin proceeded with his own personal observance, reading aloud the words of Christ from the Gospel of John: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Then in the 250,000 miles of silence between him and Earth, Aldrin recalled later in a Guideposts magazine article, he observed the solemn Christian tradition that has connected millions of Christians over the past 2,000 years to their Savior.
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Photo of Buzz Aldrin on the moon: AP Images